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Jackson football prepares for Fed rival Green

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

JACKSON TWP.  Welcome to the latest installment of weird developments in 2020 thanks to COVID-19.

In this installment, the Jackson Polar Bears and dozens of other teams across Ohio are resuming their football seasons after playoff losses, taking advantage of the Ohio High School Athletic Association's decision to allow schools to play regular-season contests up through Nov. 14 even as the playoffs continue for other teams.

ackson head coach Tim Budd (center) on the sideline during an August game against McKinley at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

"Nothing about this season has been usual, so you take it as it goes and try to work on fundamentals and caught up on those," Budd said after his team had a week off following its playoff loss to Brunswick. "It's just important that we continue to play as many games as can and you can't get caught up trying to compare this to any other year."

Such efforts would be an exercise in futility across most aspects of life, so for now, the Polar Bears will simply work on preparing for Green this Friday night.

It's a contest that was a question mark throughout last week as Green – following a first-round playoff bye – hosted Worthington Kilbourne in a district quarterfinal last Friday.

The Bulldogs ultimately fell 30-27 in a back-and-forth contest that saw their efforts at a late rally fall short. Had they won, they would have continued in the postseason and not been able to play Jackson this Friday.

Instead, Green becomes the first of a three-game stretch to close out Jackson's campaign, followed by Louisville and Nordonia, the former of which is a road game to be played on Budd's father's 70th birthday.

Green is a team that likes to spread the field and use pre-snap motion to move defenses around and create opportunities to attack. It will pose a new type of challenge for a Jackson defense that has battled well against some talented offenses this fall.

"It's something different ... it's sort of a passing version of the Wing T, which is different version of a running style," Budd said. "When a team is base empty, you have to spend extra to preparing for that."

While Green likes to have four wide receivers and send its running backs in motion or out wide in the formation, the focal point is often junior receiver Trey Martin, who burned Kilbourne for a long touchdown last Friday and whose size and speed make him a threat wherever he lines up on the field.

Junior quarterback Trevor Van Horn has formed a dangerous passing combination with Martin and for Jackson, making sure they're aware of where Martin is on every snap will be a focal point.

"The first thing is having that awareness that he's their number one target, so knowing where they line him up and whether he's an inside or outside receiver, then trying to get our best cover guys to his side of the field is big Budd said.

Having a week off in the middle of the season adds another odd twist to the game for Jackson, but Budd laughed when he noted that whether the week off was beneficial or harmful will depend, for most observers anyhow, on whether the Polar Bears win or lose.

With a 2-5 record that includes three one-point losses, it's been a season of small margins between victory and defeat for the purple and gold.

Even though they've been eliminated from the playoffs, the Polar Bears still have things for which to play. For the senior, it's three more games to close out their careers on a positive note and for the rest of the players, it's opportunities to improve and lay building blocks for the future.

"Really, it's trying to execute our base things. We just haven't executed well this season and it's rare to find any play where all 11 guys have executed well," Budd said. "It's about us and our improvement in these games."

That quest for improvement continues Friday night at Memorial Stadium in Green and even though the two teams lining up are no longer alive in the playoffs, both figure to be excited for the chance to play another game this fall, weird circumstances or not.